It is hard to escape the conclusion that cultural anthropology, cultural relativism
, and multiculturalism, far from being vehicles of intercultural communication and harmony, are instead demonstrations of the moral vanity and self-indulgence of their Western authors: in short, conspicuous examples of the very ethnocentrism they purport to reject.
Though fiction is "partial truth," it is simply not the same thing as "relative truth." As Writing Culture struggles to substantiate the distinction it draws between the "partial" and the "relative," it reveals how deep-seated anthropology's fears regarding cultural relativism
remain, even as it takes the subjectivity of point of view and the mediations of language for granted.
Alain Locke participated in the reconstructions of modernism and cultural relativism
that occurred throughout the Western world in the 1920s.
Hadley Arkes in his First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles of Morals and Justice likewise notes approvingly Lincoln's affirmation of the reality of moral principles while noting that the arguments of his adversary Stephen Douglas anticipate "the perspective of 'cultural relativism
,' the view that there are no moral truths which hold their validity across cultures." (7) Arkes takes Lincoln's principled rebuttal of Douglas's "don't care" position in their debate in Quincy, Illinois, as a model worth following today: "What Lincoln expressed ...
While she spends many pages dissecting the long-dead notion of cultural relativism
, can she truly be unaware that anthropologists have been engaged in post-colonial and feminist critiques for decades now?
Stephanie Lawson's chapter on democracy and cultural relativism
provides an interesting discussion of cultural factors and how they may fit into the development of democracy.
In Part IV, this Article argues that a distinctively liberal conception of autonomy both underlies and, upon analysis, undermines the central normative assertions of cultural relativism
. This is because the liberal imperative to respect the value of autonomy originates in a unique conception of the "self," which finds expression, among other places, in Isaiah Berlin`s classic essay on "Two Concepts of Liberty." Part IV argue that cultural relativists in fact invoke--and, absent some presently unarticulated alternative, must invoke--the liberal conception of autonomy in any argument that aims to repudiate the universality of international human rights.
Conservatives, of course, see such reasoning as their bete noire, cultural relativism
. It is cultural relativism
, the sociological equivalent of empiricism and the only sensible way of studying societies.
Nineteenth-century Afrocentrists found it difficult to espouse cultural relativism
when (with significant exceptions) those praising African and slave cultures did so in order to uphold slavery.
She examines with a critical eye the cultural relativism
that has surfaced in the past 50 years and maintains that, despite opinions to the contrary.